Tennessee Stat Book
Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo
NASHVILLE — The last voice on the soundtrack Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium belonged to a Commodore fan screaming to no one in particular:
“I don’t want to leave! You’re gonna have to throw me out.’’
His exuberance was understandable. Nights like this don’t come along even once a generation.
Vanderbilt’s ecstasy was all the more delicious because it was also agony for archrival Tennessee.
The Commodores’ 41-18 drubbing of the Vols before a crowd of 40,350 settled a number of matters.
For one, that UT coach Derek Dooley was mistaken last year when he told his team after an overtime win in Knoxville that the one thing Tennessee “always does is kick the (expletive) out of Vanderbilt.’’
This time it was Vandy doing the kicking. The Commodores thoroughly dominated the second half, expanding a 13-10 lead to 41-10 without interruption from a listless UT offense.
The ’Dores are 7-4 and at 5-3, five-game winners in the SEC for the first time since 1935.
For another, a bowl trip is off the table for Tennessee (4-7) for the second consecutive year. That hasn’t happened since 1977-78.
“We are (beyond) playing for a bowl,’’ Dooley said, looking to the season-finale against Kentucky. “I hope they’ll play for the seniors.’’
The evening also left Tennessee with the dubious distinction of being 0-7 in SEC play for the first time since the conference opened for business in 1933.
“I don’t think you can say where this program is from one game,’’ Dooley said. “We had some really good games where we didn’t win.’’
Saturday was really a stinker.
The Commodores outgained UT 442 yards to 303. Only 77 of Tennessee’s yards came in the second half.
The Commodores rolled out 28 consecutive points in the second half before the Vols registered any kind of response.
When it came, it was from a usual suspect — Cordarrelle Patterson on an 81-yard punt return touchdown.
“You can’t not give them credit,’’ Dooley said. “They held us to 10 points on offense.’’
UT’s problems started at the man who touches the ball on every snap.
Junior quarterback Tyler Bray had a miserable night, going 11-of-29 passing for 103 yards. He threw two interceptions and was relieved in each half by sophomore Justin Worley.
Bray’s lone highlight was a 14-yard TD pass to Zach Rogers in the second quarter that gave UT its only lead, 7-3.
A pair of interceptions, one by Bray then one by Worley, gave the Commodores short fields to erase it.
A Casey Spear field goal after Bray’s interception left Tennessee ahead 7-6. Worley’s interception included a 36-yard return by Andre Hal and that led to Jordan Rodgers’ 11-yard TD pass to Chris Boyd to make it 13-7.
Michael Palardy’s 28-yard field goal cut the difference to 13-10 at the half. The Vols might as well have boarded the buses and headed back to Knoxville. They were done.
Tennessee took the second-half kickoff and set the tone for what was to follow with a quick three-and-out and punt.
The Commodores were energized, requiring only three plays to cover 85 yards. Jordan Matthews got the final 47 on an end-around run for a 20-10 lead.
Moments later, Bray offered up his second interception, which the enterprising Hal returned 32 yards to the Tennessee 4.
From the 3, tailback Wesley Tate lofted a jump pass to tight end Kris Kentera and it was 27-10.
After another three-and-out by the Vols, Byron Moore’s end-zone interception dodged a Vandy kill shot -- but it was only a temporary stay of execution.
Following another UT punt, the Commodores drove 59 yards in 11 plays, Zac Stacy getting the score on a 10-yard run.
At 34-10, Tennessee was toast.
At 41-10, following Matthews’ 71-yard TD pass from Rodgers, the Vols were getting routed.
Patterson then did on special teams what neither he nor any other Vol could do on offense – find the end zone.
The game ended with Vandy taking a knee at the Tennessee 17. Dooley and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin exchanged a quick handshake and hug at midfield.
Although UT athletic director Dave Hart has made no announcement, the assumption is Franklin will be greeting a new Tennessee coach next year.
Since that opening-night feel-good triumph over North Carolina State, the Vols’ only wins have come against Georgia State, Akron and Troy.
Against Vandy, the defense surrendered at least 38 points for the seventh consecutive game. But it might have fared better with some help from the usually volatile offense.
The defense made a pair of goal-line stands in the first half, forcing Vandy to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.
As the second half played out, however, it began to buckle under the weight of the offense’s continuing no-show.
In the third quarter, Tennessee didn’t have a single first down until after Vanderbilt had marched for three touchdowns.
Bray’s string of three outstanding performances against South Carolina, Troy and Missouri came to an abrupt halt. Vandy even managed to sack him twice, something no other opponent has accomplished this year.
Worley was 8-of-11 for 51 yards passing. Marlin Lane’s 108 rushing yards and 6.8 per-carry average were highlights that were lost in the deluge of bad news.
Or, from Vanderbilt’s perspective, a deluge of good news.